Maintaining a forest for ship building would make a lot of sense if ships were still made of wood. But they aren’t. So why does the US Navy maintain a white oak forest in the middle of Indiana?
The white oak tree might have been the most fundamental building block of the young United States — literally. These giants provided the earliest Americans with shelter, built the country, laid the railroads that connected its coasts and kickstarted an industrial revolution.
From Maine to Florida and inland to the Great Plains and the American Southwest, white oaks were used to conquer the frontier, enforce US foreign policy and kick the Royal Navy out of our waters. The USS Constitution, the only still commissioned ship in the US Navy that has sunk another vessel, is made from that same white oak.
And the Navy needs to repair her from time to time.
The Constitution and other ships of its time were made were the hardest woods available for shipbuilders. For the nascent American Navy, the white oak was the perfect hardwood. When Constitution was launched in 1797, it was one of the most formidable ships of its time, among the strongest, fastest and most powerful ships of the day.
Nowhere was this more apparent than the fight in which the frigate earned its nickname. During its famous encounter with the HMS Guerriere in the War of 1812, it’s said the ship’s 22-inch thick hull caused British cannonballs to bounce off its sides. When the US sailors saw this, they were said to have shouted, “Huzzah, her sides are made of iron!”
From that day on, she was known as “Old Ironsides.”
There isn’t much trouble coming from the King of England these days and the age of sails has long given way to the age of steam (including nuclear steam). Yet the USS Constitution remains commissioned in the US Navy, connecting the history and traditions of the past to the traditions of today.
Constitution is the last of the remaining original six frigates authorized by Congress in 1794. The other five were broken up or captured by the mid-1800s. The Constitution survived because its victory over Guerriere was so resounding that keeping her together remained popular among citizens for decades.
She became a training ship for midshipmen at the Naval Academy during the Civil War and, after that, became a notable ship used for ceremonial purposes before being converted into a museum ship in 1907. In 1997, in a celebration of its bicentennial, Constitution underwent a complete refit and sailed on its own power to ports around the United States.
The refitting of a 200-year-old ship was not an easy task. There aren’t a lot of 200-year-old white oak trees laying around. That’s why the US Navy had the foresight to grow them.
When the Constitution was constructed, the white oaks used to build it were plentiful but over time, those resources dried up as American settlers pushed west and used them to build homesteads, railroads and bourbon barrels.
The Navy, still very concerned with the idea of European bullies crossing the Atlantic to push them around, decided it was in its best interest to grow replacement timbers for its advanced warships.
At Naval Support Activity Crane, near Bloomington, Indiana, the US Navy maintains “Constitution Grove,” where a forest of white oaks are grown for the sole purpose of restoring and refitting the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned vessel still sailing. (The UK’s HMS Victory is older than Constitution, but remains in drydock.)
NAS Crane is the third largest naval base in the world, and Constitution Grove is not only protected for the white oak trees, but also the biological diversity an oak forest provides, including the wildlife that live there.
So while old growth forest is removed from the grove from time to time, the Navy will continue to make sure middle-aged trees (70-80 years old) are in good health for the future and that the North American white oaks will create new saplings for as long as Constitution is afloat.
Last Friday, Themes Team representative Carolina Nymark announced the Twenty Twenty-One Blocks theme project. It is a block-based version of the Twenty Twenty-One default theme that is shipping along with WordPress 5.6. It will work with the site editor available in the Gutenberg plugin. Developers will work on the two themes as separate projects.
The original plan was to explore support for full-site editing after the WordPress Beta 1 release for Twenty Twenty-One. Some had hoped that support would land in the theme itself. However, a second theme could be a better path in the long run.
As I wrote in my original coverage of Twenty Twenty-One, it did not seem likely that full-site editing would be far enough along in development for it to be a primary feature for the theme. Since the feature will not be in WordPress 5.6, it makes sense to develop for it outside of the primary theme for the time being.
“Twenty Twenty-One Blocks is an experimental theme created as an example to highlight what is possible with Full Site Editing,” wrote Nymark in the announcement. “The theme will need Gutenberg and the Full Site Editing experiment to be enabled. It will not be part of Core, but once complete it will be available in the theme directory.”
Currently, there are no plans to integrate the two themes down the road. They will be maintained as separate projects. This sounds like a smart strategy for this theme. It will allow developers to work on the Blocks theme as a separate entity in the coming months without having to worry about potential problems with merging.
I am excited about this project because it means we get a somewhat official, though not technically a default, theme that supports full-site editing. Otherwise, the community would have had to wait another year for the Twenty Twenty-Two theme, which will presumably be 100% built with blocks.
The Q theme by Ari Stathopoulos, a Themes Team representative, is a little farther along at the moment. It is a solid starting point and learning tool. However, there should be a theme project coming from core WordPress developers that is leading the way for other theme authors. There is a sense of trust, particularly for first-time theme authors, when picking apart an officially-supported theme that it is built to current standards. That is why Twenty Twenty-One Blocks is important.
Thus far, little work has gone into the theme, much of it coming from the original pull request to kick off development from Kjell Reigstad. The theme is currently stored in the WordPress Theme Experiments repository. Ideally, the team will split this theme into its own GitHub repository since it will be added to the theme directory and not merely an experiment.
For theme authors who want to cut their teeth on building block-based themes, this would be a good place to begin taking those initial steps. Or, it will at least be a good project to follow because this is as close to an “official” theme that supports full-site editing that we will see for a while.
At this point, the theme does not do a lot. It is minimal and nowhere near a block-based equivalent of Twenty Twenty-One. However, it works as well as most other themes supporting Gutenberg’s site editor.
For now, template parts do not seem to be working on the front end. However, template parts have been hit or miss in my tests for a while, sometimes seemingly working only by some randomly magical force that rears its head when I close in on the limits of my frustration — it will likely begin working immediately after publishing this post. That is often the nature of testing alpha-level software. Nevertheless, I am excited about following the development of this theme in the coming weeks and months.
Bob Iger, the chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, says that the country’s most influential businesses have a duty to effect social change and fill in the gaps of public policy. “I do think companies, particularly large companies, have an obligation to try to solve some of these problems on behalf of their employees and come up with solutions,” Iger said today in conversation with Laurene Powell Jobs at The Atlantic Festival in Washington, D.C. (Powell Jobs is the founder of the Emerson Collective, which is the majority owner of The Atlantic.)
Iger, who has considered running for president, said that as his employees’ trust in government wanes, they’ve turned to Disney to take action on social and political issues. “Because they feel that they’ve been failed by other entities, they’re expecting their company to step up,” he said. “Maybe rightfully so.”
Disney isn’t the only company to face this kind of pressure from its employees. As my colleague Ellen Cushing has written, workers at Microsoft, Salesforce, Google, and Amazon have all pressured their employers—in the past year alone—to reconsider government contracts that employees view as unethical.
Last year, Disney committed to paying for its U.S. hourly employees’ education, a benefit Iger said almost 9,000 workers had already cashed in on. “I don’t know of anything we’ve done that has resonated more than this,” he said. Also in 2018, Disney struck a deal with unions representing workers at its parks in Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California, to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021, though its merger with 21st Century Fox earlier this year is expected to result in thousands of layoffs. Iger, meanwhile, was the third-best-paid CEO of a public company in 2018, making more than Apple’s Tim Cook and SoftBank’s Nikesh Arora.
Iger has spokenbefore about his enthusiasm for corporate social responsibility, and in a 2018 interview with the Center on Foreign Relations, he related it to the movies and TV shows the company produces. “Our brand stands for fairness and justice and inclusion, all people being treated equally,” he said at the time. (In that same interview, he described his willingness to meet with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, and also criticized the movie business for going “a little too far in infusing its stories with political themes that best reflect the positions of those in Hollywood.”)
Onstage at The Atlantic Festival, Iger declared that “the brand promise of Disney is that we are going to be a good citizen of the world.” That, he said, includes maintaining a small environmental footprint, treating employees well, and producing high-quality, well-priced products for its customers. Focusing exclusively on profits and shareholders, he said, is not an option. “The dynamic today in our country does not allow for companies to do that,” he said.
If you’re a writer, you need to be able to use persuasive writing techniques. After all, you want people to read what you write. And maybe you want them to buy your book or article. There’s more than one way to win an argument. Ancient Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle developed his own philosophy on […]